A time for everything

Most parents are quick to become aware that there is something different about their child and by the time their child has been assessed and a diagnosis has been given, they are often merely expecting the professional to tell them what they already knew and even feel a sense of relief that they have some answers. However to have it confirmed and to see it in writing is very different from knowing in your heart that there is something different about your child. Some parents have battled for years to gain a diagnosis in order for their child to access the support he or she needs, yet still feel a sense ofloss, griefand confusion when the diagnosis is finally given.

If you are reading this and are at this stage, indeed if you are at the unfortunate stage of realizing that your child is on the autistic spectrum but have not yet been listened to by professionals.be kind to yourself. One day that knot in the pit of your stomach will start to loosen and you will feel able to eat again, one day that unseen hand that has a vice-like grip on your heart will let go and the sadness will be replaced by relief that you can finally move forward and start to work with your child in order to help him or her and the rest of the family to live happy and fulfilling lives. Take time to grieve and cry for lost dreams, hopes and aspirations. Take time to rant and shout at the injustice of it all. However it is imperative to remember that it is our aspirations for our children that will not be realized, our expectations that we have to change and our hopes that have been shattered. Accept this grieving as natural and inevitable and indeed, indulge in it occasionally (away from the children) but be sure to see it for what it is -our problem not our children's.

Whatever shade of the autistic spectrum your child may be, it is imperative that as parents we encompass it, learn all we can about it and move on to new horizons. We are now on a different journey to the one originally planned and it is only natural to ponder over where we might have been. (No I am not going to recite the 'Welcome to Holland' poem!). Sometimes it is heartbreaking and I have to say that I would often love to wave a magic wand and make things easier, both for all the children and for myself. The secret to such feelings however is not to wallow in 'what ifs' but to take a step back, smile at their differences and carry on fighting for understanding and their rights. One thing that works for me if I find myself furtively sneaking around, choking back tears and making comparisons between my boys and 'typically developing' children of the same age, is to do a mental stock take of all their endearing ways, their differences and their strengths -believe me, on reflection you will be amazed at how many positives you will find.

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